Kathleen Murphy Berger, a teacher and admissions director at Boys’ Latin School who was recalled as a revered figure in the school for three decades, died of cancer complications Sept. 22 at her home in the Baltimore County community of Phoenix. She was 65.
Born in Philadelphia, Kathleen Anne Murphy was the daughter of John J. “Jack” Murphy Jr., who worked in marketing with General Electric, and his wife, Loretta Sullivan. The family moved to Salem, Va. and Cincinnati before settling in Connecticut.
She was a 1970 graduate of Stamford Catholic High School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Notre Dame University of Maryland .
She met her future husband, Frank E. Berger, then a Loyola University student, at a school dance. They married in 1974.
She and her husband moved to Cockeysville, and she began teaching at Sparks Elementary School. After raising a family, she obtained a master’s degree at Loyola University Maryland.
Mrs. Berger began a 30-year career at the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland in 1987. She initially taught first grade, a post she held for a decade. She then joined the school’s admission’s office and became its director of lower-school admissions.
“She had a way of making the boys here feel comfortable,” said the school’s headmaster, Christopher J. Post. “Over the years she impacted hundreds, thousands of students. She was gentle and optimistic and had the ability to see the brightness in difficult situations. She also had a way of making parents see the potential in their sons.”
He recalled how Mrs. Berger kept up with students by writing them notes, often after they had graduated. She was a regular at student functions and attended sports events and extracurricular activities
“She embraced all facets at Boys’ Latin — classroom, field and stage,” Mr. Post said.
Her also recalled her personality. “She quickly developed a reputation as a hard-working, humble and thoughtful colleague. Kate looked for areas where she could help to make a difference, and no task was too great or too small. Through it all, her unbridled optimism characterized every interaction she had here.”
The school’s alumni association awarded her its 2016 John Kerns Award for her “clearly evident quality, dedication and devotion to the school.”
Colleagues said she would volunteer to cover a class when a fellow teacher was absent. She had a retentive memory of Boys’ Latin students after their graduations.
“Bringing your young son into a new school can be daunting,” said Jimmy Currie, the school’s director of middle-school admissions. “She had a way of making families feel at ease.”
He recalled how one parent bonded so closely with Mrs. Berger that the mother brought her a box of homemade cookies each March 1 for a decade — March 1 was then the acceptance date for the school.
“Kate looked for the good in people,” he said. “She was also a doer. She was willing to take on the bigger assignment.”
She had not retired at the time of her death.
Mrs. Berger had a fondness for Thanksgiving and hosted family gatherings. She worked for weeks before the day preparing items such as cranberry relish, a dish originated by a grandmother who ran an inn in Maine. She kept its formula to herself — it contained oranges and apples — and distributed jars of it to faculty members, neighbors and friends.
She also worked with her sisters Eileen and Margaret on Murphy family reunions at Fairfield Beach, Conn.
Mrs. Berger was a Eucharistic minister at the Catholic Community of Saint Francis Xavier in Cockeysville, where she gathered student volunteers and their parents for work days with Habitat for Humanity in the Sandtown Winchester neighborhood.
Survivors include her husband of 43 years, a retired MBNA executive vice president; three sons, Tim Berger of Silver Spring; Brian Berger of Greenwood Village, Colo. and Dan Berger of Towson; eight sisters, Eileen Sullivan of Londonderry, N.H., Mary Schmidtke of Honolulu, Hawaii, Christina Brannock of Highlands Ranch, Colo., Elizabeth Shaughnessy of Phoenix in Baltimore County, Margaret Carley of Portland, Ore., Claire Murphy of Richmond, Va., Darcy Witham of Stamford, Conn. and Stephanie Fisher of Chanhassen, Minn.; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial Mass was offered Tuesday at the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier.